Hatters Heroes

Luton – The Legends Series – Billy Bingham

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For the latest in our ongoing series covering those who have achieved legendary status among the support, we feature another former Luton figure who became a fans favourite.

Following on from those already covered – John Moore, David Preece, Mal Donaghy, Brian Lewis, Bruce Rioch, Fred Jardine, Brian Horton, Kevin Nicholls, Tony Read, Steve Foster, Mike Keen, Ian Buxton, Lars Elstrup, Peter Anderson, Graham French, Alan West, David Moss, Terry Branston, John Aston, Paul Futcher, John Ryan, Syd Owen, Marvin Johnson, Malcolm MacDonald, Bob Hatton, Steve Buckley,Chris Coyne, Ron Baynham, John Still, Jack Bannister, Ricky Hill, Chris Nicholl, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Don Givens, Gordon Turner, Brian Stein, Jesse Pye, Raddy Antic, Joe Payne, Max Dougan, Alan Slough, Ray Whittaker, Dave Pacey, Milija Aleksic, Ron Davies, Sandy Davie John O’Rourke, Les Sealey, Bob Morton, Wally Shanks and Gordon Riddick

The latest ex-Hatter to be granted status in our legends hall of fame is Billy Bingham as nominated by Geoff Eade.

Once again I’m delving into unknown territory, although I’m approaching my own twilight years, I have to admit that, when Billy played for Luton Town, I was not born.

However, I hope, in this brief resume of his professional career, I can do the Irish legend justice.

Billy Bingham joined Luton Town in 1958 for the grand fee of £15,000, signing from Sunderland, but the move could have happened earlier with the Hatters showing an interest in Billy when he was at Glentoran, unfortunately on this particular occasion Sunderland won the battle for the winger.

But, when Sunderland were relegated in 1958, Billy was tempted south to further his career and remain playing in top-flight football.

Billy joined Luton Town FC during a monumental spell in their history, with an FA Cup Final to come, against Nottingham Forest at the end of the season.

It came as no surprise that Billy was to play a significant role in our run, in the FA Cup, with Billy scoring the winning goal in the 1-0 victory, over Norwich City, in the semi-final.

Indeed, the record books show that it was Billy who delivered the near perfect corner for Dave Pacey to score Luton’s goal in the final, against Nottingham Forest, but it was Forest that were to lift the trophy, winning 2-1, much to the dejection of the huge Luton support that filled Wembley.

Sadly, after finishing in 17th place in the league that season, the following season, despite Billy scoring 16 goals, the Hatters, under the managerial watch of Syd Owen, were relegated.

It was always going to be a hard task to keep Billy on the books and his inevitable departure came in October 1960 when the big boys of the top-flight pursued his signature. A £15000 bid, from Everton, was enough to seal the deal.

Billy had played 87 league games for the Hatters scoring 27 league goals and in total he played, in all competitions, 100 times scoring 33 goals.

Although Luton supporters were devastated to see Billy leave, he left them some wonderful memories with his wing magic and ability to deliver superb crosses.

The move turned out to be a good one for Billy with Everton winning the League Championship, with the popular winger receiving a medal.

The wingers talent was sufficient enough for him to grace the international stage where he won 56 caps, scoring 10 goals and was fortunate to grace the World Cup Finals, in 1958.

After hanging up his boots, Billy turned to football management, a career that peaked when he was appointed the manager of Northern Ireland, a position which he held twice.

His first spell came in 1967, which lasted until 1971, but it is second spell, which spanned the period 1980 to 1983, for which he will be forever remembered.

During that period Billy guided his beloved Northern Ireland to the finals of the World Cup in 1982 and 1986, a remarkable achievement and who’ll ever forget that memorable night, in 1982, when Billy’s Northern Ireland beat, the hosts, Spain, the highlights of which can be viewed below:

Sadly, Billy passed away on 09-June 2022, aged 90, in Southport, but what a legacy he left, a wonderful footballer, a successful manager and a true gentleman.

Billy Bingham – Mini Fact File

Name – William Laurence Bingham

Date of Birth – 05-August-1931

Place of Birth – Belfast, Northern Ireland

Height – 5 Feet 7 Inches

Position – Outside Right

Youth Career – St Donalds Youth Club

Playing Career – Glentoran, Sunderland, Luton Town, Everton, Port Vale

International Career – Northern Ireland, Irish League XI

Managerial Career – Southport, Northern Ireland, Plymouth Argyle, Linfield, Greece, AEK Athens, Everton, Paok, Mansfield Town, Northern Ireland, Al-Nassr

If you feel able to share any of your thoughts or memories on the Hatters career of Billy Bingham, please feel free to do so in the comment facility beneath this article.

If you can think of anyone who deserves nominating for coverage in this ongoing series, please drop their name into the comment facility beneath this article.

My thanks go to those who have already nominated faces from the past, they will all be covered, in time.

Next up in the series will be Herbert Moody as suggested by Steve Smith.


Previous article by Mad Hatter

Luton Town – It Is All In A Place Name

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  • Terry Ellingham says:

    Billy Bingham was one of my early hero’s as a ten year old I waited for two hours outside the ground to get his autograph, and with the FA cup that year go me hooked as a lifetime supporter.

  • Dave Howard says:

    Another player to consider: Robert Murray (Bob) Hawkes.

  • Tony Byfield says:

    Billy Bingham was a brilliant winger with a good turn of speed and trickery. As mentioned above he was also a goalscorer and an idol of the supporters. I was really upset when he left, he would definitely qualify as a club legend.

  • Mark says:

    He lived in Southport for years, you’d often see him in the town. He always seemed to smiling and would say hello.

  • Victor Crisp says:

    I nominate George Cummins. A superb Irish inside forward. He was such a tricky player and could almost make the ball talk. He was also an Irish international. I had the pleasure of watching him play at Kenilworth road many times.

    • Mad Hatter says:

      Added to the list, thanks for the nomination

      • Trevor Powell says:

        1 agree about Cummins.Such a frail body too
        1960/61 season when Syd Owen was Manager, we were relegated from the old Division 1.
        We missed countless penalties and George Cummins took one.It was the worst attempt I have ever seen in 65 years of watching Football .If we had scored those penalties we may well have avoided the drop.

  • BigAl says:

    I remember a crunching tackle sending Bingham flying. He somersaulted and landed back on his feet. One of the old boys behind me (probably 40 years old) commenting: “He’s as light as a feather, that Bingham.” Forward flips are a common occurrence on the pitch these days, but it was rare enough in those days for me to remember it 64years later.

  • David Gadsden says:

    I moved to Luton in 1958 to a new house built in Hadrian Ave , Dunstable, I was 11 years old at the time and had no interest in football but my dad and his family were all err sorry Watford supporters, Billy lived next door to us a a house rented to LTFC, I met him once over our garden fence when him and dad were talking football. It was 9 years later that I became a lifelong LTFC supporter and still a season ticket holder today. Funny old world.

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